- Religion and Philosophy»
- The Role of Religion in History & Society
Everything is Yoga!
Led by Shri. Narendra Modi, 21st June 2015 was enthusiastically celebrated as first International Yoga Day. There already is craze, created by commercial enterprises to dedicate and celebrate certain days to pay respect to father, mother, lover and what not. The funny thing is that India too jumped in the bandwagon of “day” craze, forgotten by the promoters/supporters of the Yoga Day that they have been strong opponents of Valentine Day, a day dedicated for lovers. To them till date celebrating such days were against Indian tradition. Now all of sudden “Yoga day” celebration has become a matter of pride and promise to spread Indian culture through Yoga in entire world.
Anyway, what is Yoga to them? Is it a part of Hindu or Vedic religious tradition? The facts must be understood.
They are confusing Yogasanas (body positions to strengthen muscles and breath control methods) with Yoga. It is believed that Yoga was first taught to mankind by most benevolent Lord Shiva. It was Patanjali, spiritual son of Lord Shiva, who wrote first treaty on Yoga. In his treaty in fact the Asana’s have no place. Rather he insists on the mind control and through it he guides how to attain salvation…or becoming one with the lord creator. This stage to which Patanjali refers as Samadhi is to be achieved through Yoga. In a way Yoga is an inner process that strengthens and controls the internal energies and thought processes. This is not that easy process. It consumes many years, even decades to attain position of the Yogi.
Asanas were later made an essential part of Yoga by Natha (Shaivait) sect and introduced many difficult body positions through which a Yoga student had to attain spiritual strength, by staying in the same position for hours. Rest of the Asanas are the simple methods of body exercise. Pranayam is a method to control the breath. That way they are good as it is a mild but useful exercise.
But what Yogasanas have to do with Yoga? We find people have invented many sitting positions for their comfort, especially spiritual masters. First evidence of such Yogic positions comes from Indus seal (2600 BC) where proto-Shiva is sitting ithyphallic in Yogic posture. Later we find Buddha and Mahavira too applying similar positions while sitting.
In fact, Rigveda doesn’t mention “Yoga” anywhere. Rather Yoga is unknown to the Rigveda as spirituality was hardly a core of its doctrine. Also the Vedic religion was shaped up in Afghanistan at about 1500 BC and was introduced to the Indians by some missionaries in later times.
In modern times Yogacharya Ayyangar started to promote Yoga in its scientific way. But recently Baba Ramdev commercialized the Yogasanas in the name of Yoga. Yogasanas too, though a method of good mild exercise, cannot be served as an instant food, the way Baba does. Rather it is a shame that the Yoga is being demeaned by providing it a false glory of ancient past. It is not Yoga. They are mere body positions that can be applied in real Yoga to achieve mind control and salvation. Again, Asanas are not necessary at all to become a Yogi. This is why Patanjali never stresses on it in his entire treaty.
When International Yoga day was declared by the saffron government people from other religions started opposing it. It is not at all that Yoga or Yogasanas are part of Hindu or Vedic religion, though the present government and its umbrella organizations might be thinking so. Yoga is just a spiritual way that can be observed by anybody with his/her own innovations or individual traditional practices.
Muslims too have their certain sitting positions and body movements while offering Namaz. But opposition arose because of the motives of Vedicist ranks. Yoga has been observed by many in and outside India from thousands of years. Spirituality is not a property of any religion or culture. Though the oldest proof has been surfaced in Indus civilization, Yoga or Yogic position could have been emerged anywhere on the earth among any tribe and could have been imitated by Indus people. There is no way to find provenance of such things. But saffron government wanted to show the world the religious heritage of India and tried to do it through Yoga Day.
The worst part is Sadhvi Prachi, a flamboyant, most controvercial leader of Vishva Hindu Parishad stated recently that those who oppose Yoga should go to Pakistan. She also blatantly accused Vice President Hamid Ansari for his non attendance at Rajpatha, New Delhi where a proposed record-break Yoga event was organized.
While stating, Yoga means to connect, Muslim Law board, instead, is attempting to disconnect with the cultural ethos of the Indian soil. I feel, were the motives of the saffron government were really secular? And how you can enforce a thing like Yoga which is associated primarily with the development of soul and control wicked thoughts that overpower the human being all the time? Isn’t it a path to salvation, freedom and not of abiding human soul to something against his wishes?
I think, the basics of Yoga were thus insulted by Sadhvi. This is not Yoga. Sadhvi needs to learn so much so of Yoga. Brahmasutra states, unless you have desire you cannot gain supreme knowledge. Sadhvi gave a statement like an illiterate soul.
In short, Yoga is a spiritual way. It is a philosophy in itself. It has nothing to do with any religion. It is not property of any land, culture or religion. Baba Ramdev’s Yoga is nothing but a cheap game aimed at commercial prospectus and gains. Yoga does not need any special day dedicated to it.
In Geeta we find several types of Yogas. Anyone can follow Yoga (or with any name) and by treading any path. Those who keep on doing their duties without expectations also is a form of Yoga, Karmayoga. Renunciation from every mundane life too is Yoga. It comes in many forms. Everything is Yoga, from physical to psychological health!